I have been watching a series on the history channel entitled “Total War.” This naturally includes mostly WWII. I have learned several things that I was not aware of before.
Although the Allies in Russia, Britain and the US prepared their citizenry for total war, and this included bringing most women into the work force to do jobs that men had vacated as they went as soldiers to fight, this was not done in Nazi Germany. The Nazi concept of the German woman as a housefrau undermined this aspect of total war and the female work force in Germany was not mobilized until 1944, by which time it was too late to affect the war’s outcome. This was one reason why production of all goods including armaments, were reduced in Nazi Germany compared to the Allies.
There has been a debate about whether or not Hitler intended to kill all the Jews of Europe before WWII started. I was not aware that the programs of forced sterilization of “undesirables,” including those Germans who were physically and mentally unfit, was begun in 1939, before the war started. Then also the euthanasia program named AktionT4 was started in Germany in 1939 to kill all those considered to be unproductive, including those who had already been sterilized and many others, including new-born babies who were deemed mentally or physically unfit. At first they were shot in the head, but then they found gas was more efficient. The killing of ca. 300,000 Germans was considered as an experiment in how to get rid of other undesirable populations, such as the Jews. Also, deportation from Germany to the east of people considered to be non-Aryan, such as Poles and other East Europeans, as well as German Jews, started as early as 1940. To accommodate these deportees camps were built in occupied Poland.
Note that the Allies also interned enemy aliens, Germans and Italians, in camps in the UK, the USA and Canada, and mainly Japanese from the West Coast in camps around the USA. Many of them were US citizens and not in fact enemy aliens. Under conditions of total war, such niceties were ignored. Although they were mistreated, enemy aliens in Western Allied countries were never murdered, starved or subjected to inhumane treatment in any systematic way.
In Germany, several ideas for expelling the Jews and other undesirables, such as to Madagascar (which had been a French colony) or to Siberia, were considered. Although the Einsatzgruppen (Special forces) had killed some 2 million Jews between 1939 and 1941 in Eastern Europe, shooting was considered too inefficient. Since Germany had not yet captured enough Russian territory, the Wansee Conference in Berlin in Jan 1942, organized by SS Commander Reinhard Heydrich, decided that the most efficient way to carry out the “final solution to the Jewish problem” was to kill all the Jews in Europe (totalling 11 million people) in concentration camps already being built mainly in Poland, using the gas methods that had been developed for the AktionT4 program in Germany. Thus, under conditions of total war, the industrial genocide of undesirable and unproductive elements was a logical outcome of Nazi ideology.